Tikkhat Manjhe Swadisht Naahi!
The Kolhapuri Lavangi – A tiny little chili bomb local to this area.This is the flavor that defines Kolhapuri cuisine. But is it really?
There is a saying in Marathi – ‘Tikkhat manjhe swadisht naahi‘ (spicy doesn’t mean tasty). So which is it? Tikkhat? Or Swadisht? That’s what I was craving to find out.
As I had an opportunity to spend a day in Kolhapur with a good friend (who, incidentally, is a local of this city), I had to eat my way through this city. Here are some of the best spots I hit:
Hotel Parakh: Special Mutton Fry Thali
We landed in Kolhapur just around lunch time. The drive form Pune had left us ravenous, and we totally looking forward to our first meal in Kolhapur.
Hotel Parakh is a simple, no frills place with a basic menu – they do what they do best.
One of the best mutton thalis I’ve had in a long long time. Hotel Parakh, Kolhapur puts out this gorgeous plate of meat with perfectly cooked mutton fry and a lovely mutton kheema. 250/- for this plate of awesomeness is a steal!
But the showstopper here are the twin rassa bowls – Tambda and Pandhra.
The Pandhra rassa is a lovely white mutton stock base, lightly spiced. Dunk your bhakri and mutton fry to oomph up the flavors, or drink it up as a soup.
The Tambda rassa is spicy, but not what you expect. Cooked in mutton stock, you can see bits of Mutton fat floating around, giving it a bit of richness that only fat can give. It has a spectacular back of the throat hit, without putting your palate on fire. You can happily chug a few bowls of this fiery looking gravy without feeling numb lips or burning your throat. If anything, it triggers the taste buds, taking this lovely thali to the next level.
A whole lane dedicated to Kolhapuri Chappal stores? This one I could not miss!
The best Vada Pav in Kolhapur?
Right at the bustling Rankala lake sits Mr Ramchandra Patil, owner of Priyadarshini Mobile Canteen. What really set this apart is the MASSIVE vada served with a slice of bread and coconut chutney. The jumbo vada pav is delicious, very different from what we get in Pune/Mumbai, and the chutney truly makes it a delicious experience
Will the real All India Bhel please stand up?
All India Bhel is one of the iconic spots of Kolhapur. Affectionately known as ‘Raja Bhau Bhel Center’, this was set up in 1965. Over 50 years, they have created their legacy, and defined the street food scene in Kolhapur. The entire street where this is located is lined with food stalls, with the maximum crowds gathering around Raja Bhau Bhel Center
They work at lightning speed, preparing your bhel, customized to your liking (dry/wet, spicy/medium) in less than 30 seconds. Take a look:
The bhel itself is delicious – sweet, spicy, sour, with hints of raw mango, garlic chutney and chillies.
The funny part is the number of ‘All India Bhel Center’s that have propped up. I counted about 15 of them in a line at Rankala lake. All of them serve great stuff, no doubt, but the original is undoubtedly the best 🙂
Dinner Scenes – Mutton at Opal
Another one of the iconic food spots in Kolhapur, Hotel Opal was set up in 1968. Today, about 50 years later, they continue to carry on the legacy. The food here is excellent. Must try the mutton thali (tambda-pandhra rassa, mutton fry, mutton curry and bhakri). Do not miss the solkadi to cool down the senses.
Dessert Feels – Imperial Cold Drink House
Imperial goes beyond being called a legacy. Set up in 1910, this centurion is Kolhapur at its finest. Do not miss the Imperial Special Cocktail (with cake). Ice cream, milkshake, tooti fruity, jelly, dry fruits, fresh fruits (if u r lucky, u’ll get mango bits too) – this has it all. This is an absolute must after the spicy tambda rassa!
We noticed this board on the way to Imeprial, and HAD to try it out. It is exactly as the name suggests – hot basundi, mixed with hot tea. The taste? Well, imagine drinking tea with condensed milk – super sweet, dessert-y, thick, creamy, with a flavour of tea. Definitely worth a try. You’ll find them lined up along Shivaji chowk after 5PM in the evening.
You can’t leave Kolhapur without eating Misal! Breakfast the next day is Misal at the oldest Misal joint in Kolhapur – Hotel Bawada Misal.
Established in 1923, they serve a form a misal very different from what we get in Pune. The tarri is a lot thinner, and contains a blend of matki, chana and potatoes, topped with shaved coconut and dahi. And contrary to popular belief, it isn’t burn your mouth spicy. It is a very balanced blend of spices, that will keep you craving for more.
One day is not enough to explore the true beauty of the food that this lovely city has to offer. But what I experienced in these 24 hours provided me enough fuel to go back on another gastronomical excursion to further explore this city. #baconbaba will be back!